Lawyers demand end to police brutality
By Chengeto Chidi
Legal practitioners have demanded an end to police brutality and impunity which they said has been on the increase and threatening constitutional order and rule of law in the country.
Members of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights and Young Lawyers Association of Zimbabwe presented a pertition to the Minister of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage Kazembe Kazembe and the Commissioner-General of Police Godwin Matanga calling demanding for action.
“We, the concerned members of the legal profession are concerned at the continued disregard for the law and constitutional provisions demonstrated by the Zimbabwe Republic Police over the course of the year and more particularly over the course of the last two months, ” reads the petition.
In a peaceful demonstration the lawyers marched from the High Court of Zimbabwe to the Ministry of Home Affairs where the petition was handed to the permanent secretary before proceeding to the Police General Headquarters where police spokesman Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi received the petition.
Of concern to the lawyers is police’s disregard of the constitution and failure to deliver on their core duties of protecting the people, but causing harm instead
“We are concerned that the very entity which is meant to protect and uphold the law and to protect and secure the lives and property of the people of Zimbabwe in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution, is instead contravening the law and causing harm to the people,” they said.
The lawyers raised concern over the police’s failure to own up to their misconduct and justification of the misconduct through some acts passed in the Constitution
“We are further concerned that the Zimbabwe Republic Police have attempted to justify their actions through a reliance on the Maintenance of Peace and Order Act (Chapter 11:23) which Act was effected, nonwithstanding the Adverse Report made by the Parliamentary Legal Committee as announced by the Speaker of Parliament on 24 July 2019, such adverse Report highlighted various unconstitutional provisions relating to that act which ought not to have been ignored, ”
The lawyers’ demonstration was in protest against impunities, they called for application of the law equally to everyone and all perpetrators of violence face prosecution
“We have noted the heavy handed approach of police officers who have, to date acted with impunity and in contravention of the law on 13 October 2019, 20 November 2019 and again on 23 November 2019,” the lawyers said.
The lawyers were demonstrating against violations which included assault of arrested vendors whilst in police custody on 13 October which resulted in the death of Hilton Tafadzwa Tamangani in the custody of the state after being denied private medical treatment at his own expense.
Assault of members of the public who had gathered outside Morgan Tsvangirai house which caused grievous bodily harm while others were detained unlawfully.
The march was also meant to pertition against assault of journalists despite being in possession of press cards and wearing distinctly marked “Press” jackets athe Hope Of Nation Address which was to be held at the Morgan Tsvangirai House where bystanders faced arbitrary arrests.
Their posed plea was also the repeated denial of access to their clients, with Obert Masaraura, president of the Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ) being an example as this happened at the Harare Central Police Station on 23 November when he was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct
They were also complaining against public assault of Douglas Coltart a human rights lawyer who was physically assaulted by unidentified police officers client at Harare Central Police Station in the presence of senior members of the Police while representing Masaraure and repeated denied access to their clients who will be in holding cells.
Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi acknowledged the petition handed to him by the lawyers
“Thank you very much, our learned frienda, I have received this petition on behalf of the Commissioner General of police and i am going to hand it over to the Commissioner General of police this afternoon, ” Nyathi said.